Windham, NH 03087

WEA Contract Concerns #2

The following letter was sent to the Windham School Board on August 19, 2015.

To the Windham School Board,

In negotiating teacher contracts it is important to review each component and determine if wording can put significant long term obligations and strains on the district and its taxpayers. When you begin to negotiate with the WEA, I urge you to pay special attention to the benefits section.  It contains many costly, unfunded options that obligates the Windham School District.  Most concerning is Article XVI, B; a clause that requires the district to pay for health and dental insurance at an amount equal to the cost paid during the year of retirement.  Those payments would continue until the teacher reaches medicare eligibility.

In addition, the contract does not provide for the cost of coverage to be reduced in the event the type of coverage changes after retirement (e.g. full family to couple or single).  This means, if a current teacher retires and has full family coverage at the time of their retirement, the family premium amount is allocated to their account each year.  This leaves open the potential for a retired teacher whose household decreases to choose a more expensive health plan, or have a higher percentage of his/her health premiums paid in future years.

To put this into perspective, the current cost of full family medical and dental insurance for the Windham School district exceeds $25,000 per year.  Under Article XVI, B; if a teacher retires at age 50 (the first year of eligibility), the district would be obligated to an additional $375,000 for their continued health and dental insurance premiums (until they reach the current medicare age of 65).  For our approximately 200 teachers, if all retired at age 50 with a full family insurance plan, the taxpayers would be obligated for up to ~$75,000,000 in payments beyond retirement.  This amount could increase if the medicare age increases or Medicare eligibility requirements change.

One small change in the latest contract lowered the teacher retirement age from age 55 to age 50 – and increased our liabilities by nearly $25,000,000.   This is unacceptable, especially since this benefit should never have been offered in the first place..

Providing paid health and dental insurance payments after retirement saddles Windham taxpayers with a huge, unconscionable liability, and provides absolutely no benefit to the education of our children in the schools.  It is your obligation to negotiate a fair and equitable contract with our teachers.  One that benefits all parties involved – without bankrupting the town.

Eileen Mashimo